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Increasing tobacco cessation is essential for reducing tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2009 report on the global tobacco epidemic states that: “ Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death, and is estimated to kill more than 5 million people each year worldwide. Most of these deaths are in low- and middle-income countries. The gap in deaths between low- and middle-income countries and high-income countries is expected to widen further over the next several decades if we do nothing. If current trends persist, tobacco will kill more than 8 million people worldwide each year by the year 2030, with 80% of these premature deaths in low- and middle-income countries. By the end of this century, tobacco may kill a billion people or more unless urgent action is taken.” (WHO, 2009)

In the first half of this century, the overwhelming majority of these forecasted deaths are among current tobacco users and, therefore, only interventions that encourage and enable them to stop will reduce this morbidity and mortality in the short to medium term. As stated in a recent summary of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project findings: “to make a significant global reduction in tobacco-related deaths, current smokers must quit" (page 2; ITCPEP, 2010). Tobacco policy efforts are supported by a recent finding that that in the United States approximately 8 million premature deaths had been prevented and mean life span had been extended by 19 to 20 years due to tobacco control efforts since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report (Holford et al., 2014). However, despite these tremendous gains, the burden of tobacco-caused disease and premature deaths is predicted to persist well into the twenty-first century unless rates of cessation are more aggressively increased (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2014).

The vast majority of projected deaths caused by tobacco use in the next 30 to 50 years will be from people who are already addicted to tobacco. Increasing cessation among current tobacco users is therefore the only way to reduce tobacco-caused mortality and morbidity in this timeframe. Preventing young people taking up using tobacco is an important tobacco control strategy in the long run but, even if successful, would not begin to reduce tobacco-caused mortality and morbidity for some decades.

International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITCPEP). FCTC Article 14: Tobacco Dependence and Cessation. 2010; November), 1-8.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking — 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.

World Health Organization. WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2009: Implementing smoke-free environments. Geneva: WHO Press. 2009. logo
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